Power and Force
The skrulls had wanted to get as far away from the Kree Empire as possible. Which meant travelling to a galaxy far, far away.
Really far, Carol reflected. So far that even at super-luminal speeds, it had taken them years to get to this place. To this desert planet bathed in the light of twin suns. This planet that was without a trace of living sapient life, a few settlements spread out across its surface like monuments to a forgotten people. And even then, they weren't that impressive, not even by the standards of Earth. Still, the skrulls had liked them. The skrulls had set up shop in the biggest settlement of them all, parking the ship in one of over ninety docking bays. Which left them to start rebuilding their lives, and for her to ask "what now?"
She hadn't been sure. The skrulls hadn't been sure. There was no-one else on this damn planet to ask, and from what the ship's instruments were telling them, there wasn't anyone else to ask in this galaxy either. The stars were silent. This world was silent. Now, soaring above the desert sands, she felt some mild amusement in seeing two shadows cast on the sands below, but it was an amenity that had quickly worn off. This planet had three things – sand, rocks, and more sand. And the amenities of those things had quickly worn off as well.
She hung in the air, letting the sand wash over her as readily as the question. What now indeed? She'd told the kree that she'd be back for them, and of all the things she might accomplish in this universe, tearing down a despotic empire wasn't the worst idea in the world. On the other hand, nature abhorred a vacuum – tearing down the kree might pave the way open for something worse, not to mention the billions that would die in the process. On the third hand, she was quite possibly the most powerful being in the universe. And with great power came…well, she wasn't sure. But-
On the sands below her. A small dome. She had no idea how she'd missed it, but it was there all the same. Without a second thought, she drifted down to the surface outside the structure. Someone had lived here. Maybe someone still did. If so, it might go to show that there was some sapient life in this otherwise silent galaxy. So without hesitation, she walked in. At the very least, it would get her out of the sun.
"Hello?" she asked.
Maybe the species of this world had found the equivalent of a universal translator, maybe not. Whatever the case, there was no answer. There was no light, no signs of any power, but light streamed through the equivalent of a skylight in the dome's roof, giving the room ample illumination.
"Not breaking and entering, if that's what you think," Carol murmured.
Still no answer. Still no sign of life. Frowning, she began to walk through the dwelling – the Milky Way was crawling with life. Prokaryotic, eukaryotic, primitive sapients like her own species to galaxy-spanning empires. In her experience, life emerged wherever life could, and once it did, it kept making more of itself. What had happened in this galaxy to make things so different? Or, she reflected, what hadn't happened? Because while life was found everywhere, she'd never read or heard any explanation as to what the catalyst for it was. Maybe something was different in this galaxy that had inhibited the process.
Or something terrible had happened instead. Because she reached a stone plate and held it up, letting the light reflect off it as she shifted its angle. Sapients had been here. Sapients that could build small-scale settlements on this planet, and sapients who had at least some basic understanding of art. Likely even more than her, since the only art she'd learnt on Hala was the type that allowed her to fight better. She gingerly put the plate down and looked around the room. There wasn't much sand in here. So either it had been kept out through its design, or its owner, whoever they were, was still in town, and still living here. Not an owner she'd have to fear, but…
Hello, what's this?
Thoughts of the owner stepped aside as she saw something on a mantelpiece. It was small, cylindrical, and made of metal. Not dissimilar from any number of tools she'd seen and used over the years. But there was something about it. Something that made her walk over to it and take it in her hand. This close, she could see that of the cylinder, one part was open, while the bottom half wasn't. And on the cylinder, a single rectangular button. She gave it a press…
…and nearly dropped it as a shaft of blue light shot out. She was instantly reminded of a sword – some kind of energy sword. One that made a sound as she slowly moved the blade through the air. If it was a sword, that made it a weapon. But holding the blade, it felt…different. As if hers wasn't the only hand upon the hilt.
"It called to you, didn't it?"
A hilt and a blade that was spun around to the source of the voice. An old man, apparently human, standing in the doorway to this hovel.
"It did," the man continued, unfazed at the fact that a former Starforce member was pointing a laser sword at him. "But is it in spite of the darkness, or because of it?"
Carol lowered the blade and deactivated it. "Who are you?" she asked.
The man chuckled. "The one who breaks into my home, who points a weapon at me, demands my name first?"
Carol remained silent, even if she saw his point.
"Who I am is of no matter," the man said. He walked over to Carol and held out a hand. "None of this matters anymore. Maybe it never did."
Carol, frowning, nevertheless put the device back in the man's hand. He watched as he put it back on the mantelpiece, holding it as if he was wielding the Holy Grail or something.
"You look human," she murmured.
He snorted. "An astute observation."
"Yes, well, I've observed a lot of things over the past few hours," Carol said. "Including that you're somehow in a galaxy where humans shouldn't be, and that you're the only living thing I've seen on this planet."
"More astute observations." He looked at her, a darkness in his eyes that Carol had seen among the elder skrulls – a darkness that came from despair. "I'm sure there are others in this galaxy," he whispered. "People like me, among the ruins. But our wars caked the stars in blood, and in the end, it all collapsed."
"It?" Carol asked.
The man walked over to a stone chair and gingerly sat down. "Republics and empires. Resistances and rebellions. Light always shining, but the brighter it shone, the darker the shadow. Until at last, the shadow consumed the light, but always failed to consume it. Thus, the light grew to banish the shadow, before burning bright enough to feed it, and beginning the cycle again. Saga after saga, a tale told again and again – always the same story, always the same conclusion." He looked at the device that Carol had activated. "Do you know how many have wielded that weapon?" he whispered. "How many hands took up that blade? Can you comprehend that they all thought that they were banishing the dark, when in fact they were but players upon the stage?" He coughed, before whispering, "all those years, and they never cut their own strings."
Carol stood in silence. It was possible that the man before her was mad. But at the very least, this galaxy had gone dark. There might well be some truth to his story. So she asked, "when did this happen?"
"Oh, long ago," the man whispered. "Long, long ago. So long that it was a time when galaxies were closer apart. Now…" He traced his finger in the air. "So many galaxies, always pushed apart. Dark holds them together, dark drives a wedge. Eventually, even the stars burn out." He looked up and stared at Carol, frowning. "Have I seen you before?" he whispered.
Carol blinked. "Excuse me?"
He slowly got to his feet and leant in. She fought the urge to recoil – withered as his skin was, his teeth were at least in good shape. So when he said, "no. Not her. Similar, but not," it wasn't as unpleasant as it could have been." So she kept in place as he staggered back to his chair. "Begone," he said.
Carol glanced at the device on the mantelpiece.
"That is not for you."
And looked back at him. "Listen, buddy. I'm not a thief. Well, I mean, I did steal a motorcycle awhile back…not that you would know what that is, but-"
"The blade is not for you," the man whispered. "For her, it was. But not you. Never you."
Carol couldn't help but frown. "Why?" she asked.
He pointed at her. She pointed at herself, an eyebrow raised, but he shifted his finger. Eventually, she realized what he was pointing at – her wrists.
"Shackles broken," the man whispered. "To wield that blade requires restraint. You have none. You need none. When the time comes, restraint is not what you will need."
"When the time comes?" she asked incredulously.
The man sighed, and looked up to the skylight. Carol noticed how as the light touched his skin, he appeared at least ten years younger. But when he looked back at her, not only did he look older, but darker as well. Both literally and figuratively.
"Trillions called this galaxy home," he whispered. "And trillions are now dead. This galaxy is old in this universe, and its passing will not be noticed. But when it happens, so many more will die. Cloven in half, cloven in two, with so called impassive judgement. As if any justice could come from madness."
"The heck are you babbling about?" Carol asked.
The man folded his hands together and lowered his gaze. "Sitting here, under the light of twin suns," he whispered. "Sitting. Standing. Ever looking to the horizon. Looking at past, present, and things yet to come." He looked up at Carol, and she saw that the darkness had returned. Again, the darkness that came of despair. "Do you know how many futures there are when the light triumphs over the dark?" he whispered. "Do you know what the answer is? What the Force told me as I connected to it? Even sundered as it is in this galaxy, I know the answer." He got to his feet. "Do you want to know the answer?"
Carol shook her head. It was obvious that the man was a lunatic, and she wanted no further part in that. Even if he was the only company left on this desert planet outside the skrulls, mad company was worse than no company.
"Of course you don't," the man whispered. "But you'll know the answer. You may yet help forge the answer. Even if hands of iron best the dark, even if shield becomes sword, and sword hammer, and hammer axe, the answer will be known. Be it through hand of iron or gold."
"I'm sure it will," Carol murmured. "But I best be going."
She turned and headed for the exit, squinting as the sun assaulted her eyes. Standing there, on the border between light and dark, she gave one last glance at the blade. The one whose hilt was but iron, and whose blade was the colour of sky. It occurred to her that she could take it. It would be useless to her, but still, it would be hers. And she looked at the man, now at his feet, heading over to the wall by that blade. Placing one hand against it, and another upon his heart.
"Who are you, anyway?" Carol asked.
He glanced at her and smiled. "You may call me Ben."
"I'm sure I can call you a lot of things," Carol murmured.
The man looked away from her. "There's always a Ben," he whispered. "Across canon, across legends, sometimes at the start of the story, sometimes at the end. But there's always a Ben. Always."
Carol let him wander off deeper into the dome. She toyed with asking if he wanted to come with her – the trip back to the Milky Way would be long, but it had to be better than this miserable dung heap. A dung heap with a blade all the same. One that even now, tempted her. Asked her. Begged her to take it…to let go…cast a light bright enough to cast a shadow over an entire empire…
In the end, she turned around, and took back up to the sky.
Flying under the light of two suns.
Flying above two shadows.
So, Kevin Feige is going to be producing a Star Wars film, and there's talk of Brie Larson appearing in it. Truth be told, I'm kind of curious, if only because of the inevitable shitstorm it's going to generate in...well, less than savoury corners of the Internet.
Anyway, drabbled this up.